📓 Entry #8 — The journey to Lake Atitlan

Maeghan Smulders
A Little Detour
Published in
4 min readJan 11, 2018


Dec 28, 2017

We left Antigua for Lake Atitlan, a lake in the middle of the country surrounded by volcanos. During the holidays — all the local Guatemalans and folks from surrounding borders come here to relax and get away. Well… we were planning on doing the same thing.

To my surprise, it was a rough drive.

The shuttle we booked was over an hour late (we’ve gotten used to that). Actually, that is one thing I’ve noticed — not having work to go back to makes travel difficulties or missteps easier and less stressful. If it takes us two days longer to get anywhere — that’s ok! It would ruin a 2 weeks vacation, so I really feel lucky that we’ve got the time 🙂

Our shuttle man strapped our bags to the top of the van and I am honestly surprised everything made it in one piece since he drove like a mad man. If you know our friend Steve… well he drove a little more crazy than Steve.

While we were driving.. we passed a few hundred women and children sitting on the side of the highway.. with no home, no food.. just sitting around and waving at the cars or chasing them.. and you could see many of the children did not look healthy. The whole ride watching them had me thinking to myself, they must be homeless... but then we were informed that they are people of the hills.. they are very poor, but not necessarily homeless… and it is very hard to help them. We were told that if you give them food.. or clothing.. the local men come and take the food, clothing or what ever was given, sell it and use the money for drinking (in many cases, I’m sure not all).

And that really hit me…. hard.

The parents can’t send the kids to school, so they sit on the road and hope things are gifted their way. Well.. it turns out during the holidays, locals feel generous and throw money out the windows to them. Literally.

I wasn’t planning on writing that detail of the ride in here (its a downer), but it really stuck with me for a few days after. I wanted to help… even if it was just playing with the kids or helping pass out food, but I couldn’t (maybe I can in the future). But I wrote it in because it’s a reality check to how lucky I am to have been born in Canada and had the upbringing I did. Thanks mom and dad — I love you.

So we stopped in the town of Panajachel — one of the main hubs for water transport around Lake Atitlan to each of the different towns. Our host was very nice, his name was Carlos and he was just setting up a new hostel that had been open for less than 3 months. Our room was literally a bed and blinds.. but he had big plans for the place to make it something special. 😊 He gave us lots of advice for things to see and towns to visit.

He told us of this incredible hot spring.. that was so unique and so special that he walks to it in the morning at 5am to enjoy it all to himself. So we thought, sure — lets do it!

We weren’t that eager to go at 5am.. so we left at 8am and started walking. He said it was a 30 min walk if you walk fast.. and 40 if you walk slow. Well… it took over an hour to get there and by the time we got there… there was no signs or sight of this place! We had to keep asking locals where to go every few feet and we were finally directed to the beach... and this broken walk way along the side of the water. So we followed it and found a very small area MAYBE 4 feet wide… that had one rock that was burning hot, keeping that small area very warm.

There were two other local girls enjoying the spring, so we jumped in closely with them in the 4 foot pool to enjoy the warm water.

It was really funny — I told Oli I was down to Guatemalan Uber the way back instead of walk... so we got on the back of a pick up truck for 2 quetzales and rode it back, standing up, holding to a makeshift metal frame, with a dozen other people back going up and down the winding roads back to town and called it a morning.

The rest of our time in Lake Atitlan, we spent visiting each of the towns around the water and could have easily spent over a week here doing that. But I know know that if I ever have a Gavin Belson breakdown… I am heading to San Marcos with the hippies and enjoying a silent meditation retreat where you sit in silence for 10 days, or participate in a mushroom harvesting workshop.

amoung other things I could register for

See more on our website www.alittledetour.ca🌏✈️👫



Maeghan Smulders
A Little Detour

Hi! 🙋 I'm a tall, homeschooled, well traveled, terrible speller, who loves ice cream, building things and can be hilarious at times 👉 www.maeghansmulders.com